Quick English: Breath and Breathe

Breath and Breathe


Breath and breathe are often confused because of their extremely similar spellings. Only an e separates breath and breathe, but there is an important difference between the two words. Because the words are so similar, lots of people (native English speakers included!) have trouble telling the difference and use them incorrectly in sentences. Take a look at how they differ and see how quickly you are able to start using them in your every day English conversations.



Breath is a noun, and is the actual air that you take in when you breathe. It is the object.

Example: Thierry took a deep breath before his piano recital.



To breathe is a verb that means to take air into your lungs and then expel it. It is the action of doing so.

Example: Mesut breathed deeply as he began his run-up.

It is very easy to confuse the two, especially because they are so similar. In fact, you can even say that someone can breathe a breath! If you need help pronouncing the two words, breathe rhymes with sleeve, and breath rhymes with Beth.


Here are some common phrases in English involving the word "breath"

Catch my breath: when you are tired and need a moment to compose yourself

               > I had to run all the way here; just give me a minute to catch my breath.

Take my breath away: when someone or something takes you by surprise, in a positive way

               > She was so beautiful that she took my breath away.

Don't hold your breath: this is said when something is unlikely to happen

               > "I hope Arsenal sign a world-class player this summer." "Don't hold your breath."


Test yourself 

Practice what you've learned with our quiz below. Let us know your score in the comments section below. If you're interested in studying abroad take a look at the English schools we offer worldwide. 


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